18 September 2010

Worried Parents Paranoid about their Children

Parents seem to be overly worried about their children based on unfounded fears. Based on a recent survey, it seems parents are more concerned about very unlikely events which may kill or injure their children and are neglecting or choosing to ignore the biggest actual dangers to their children's lives and safety.

This survey is just another case of people’s concerns for particular threats not matching what attacks are the most likely in reality. Christie Barnes is a mother of four and conducted this survey for her work, “The Paranoid Parents Guide”.

Based on her surveys, parents are worried most about the following. And this is in order:

  • Kidnapping
  • School snipers
  • Terrorists
  • Dangerous strangers
  • Drugs
But Barnes has discovered that the top 5 ways children actually get hurt or killed is by the following:
  • Car accidents
  • Homicide which is usually committed by a person who knows the child
  • Abuse
  • Suicide
  • Drowning
The big concerns and fears are indeed scary events that are often seen and dramatized in the media. The reality of the events which are most likely to harm children are in a way, much darker. Intuitively, these results are not really that surprising. But they are perhaps more generally accepted.

The concerns of parents are likely caused by the media focusing on these more dramatic events. The reality is not so much dramatic, but sad. They do not make as good news stories.

Barnes thinks instead of being concerned about unlikely events, simply making sure your children wear helmets and seatbelts will reduce the chances of children being killed by 90%. Not really dramatic or exciting but that is the reality.

Props to Bruce Schneier for first bringing this to my attention. Interesting stuff.

Image by zoethustra.

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  1. Hi Adam,

    Agreed on the worry list but my take is a little different.

    I assume that parental units are doing their due diligence and doing the normal parenting stuff - such as buying car insurance, advising against under-age drinking and drinking and driving... so on.

    I also think that stranger abduction is maybe 20% of the case (or less).

    Having stated that should a parent advise kids to not take normal precautions such as girls not jogging at night and jogging against traffic in the daytime (and no ipods)?

    I would and have tried to mitigate the normal worries as well as the less occurring. As a martial artist - I've always worried about the odd attack anyway (however unlikely).

    Keeping a perspective is a good thing too. I would be worried if the normal concerns were not addressed by parents.

    Thanks for pointing this out.

  2. Thanks for the feedback John. I always try to keep an eye on what the statistics are saying about certain attacks. These are our best metric for understanding the reality of violence.

    Of course, statistics are general by their nature and people need to be aware that different areas have a higher risk of certain attacks. These higher risk areas are at the upper echelon of the overall statistics and very safe areas have the lower level. Statistics indicate the middle ground.

    Just something for readers to keep in mind.

  3. Parents surveyed by the Mayo Clinic, MORI polls, etc were showing that the scariest news stories were at the top of parent's worry list. And the scariest 24/7 news sensations often only happen once a year or to less than 1 in 10 million kids. One hurt child is an tragedy but these sensational stories are distorting our 'common sense'. We are more likely to poison our kids cooking than any "Candyman" Halloween killer (an Urban Myth--the dad was trying to kill his kids for insurance money.)

    We wouldn't pack a snow shovel for a trip to Las Vegas but we will lose sleep over something that is just as rare when it comes to our children. Be aware, be concerned, empathize with those hurt, but fix the dangers that are likely to happen to your child first.
    Christie Barnes (author of The Paranoid Parents Guide)

  4. Thanks for popping over Christie and sharing some further reality checks. Often the best thing we can do to ensure childrens safety is quite boring and unexciting.

    However, I have seen myself through my own research that it is often those smaller less exciting things we do which have the biggest benefit.


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